Kangaroos lift hearts at parties, retirement homes

By Polly Keary, Editor
Kangaroos make Teresa Wilmot happy.
From the time she first visited a kangaroo farm in Arlington, through many repeat visits to see them on Mother's Day and her birthday, to the Christmas when her husband committed to getting her one of her very own, kangaroos have lifted Wilmot's heart.
And she believes they can do the same for others. So through her business Roo To You, she brings animals, including a llama and a new baby kangaroo, to schools, birthday parties and sometimes to visit the elderly in homes or children who are in the hospital.
At her Wagner-area home Thursday, Wilmot was carrying her "pouch potato," an 11-month-old baby kangaroo named Scooby Roo, around in a homemade cloth bag that looks like a beach tote.
The 13-pound animal, doe-eyed and rabbit-eared in his cloth bag, is the latest in a long line of exotic pets that the Wilmots have owned on their farm, which they call the Funny Farm.
They have owned llamas and alpacas, wallabies, ponies, a donkey and a tiny African bush baby.
In fact, the Funny Farm was once a petting zoo. But due to the high expense of running the zoo, the Wilmots closed the zoo and now just bring animals directly to the people who would like to see them; sometimes for a fee and sometimes on a volunteer basis, depending on where they are going.
Today the farm has two llamas and one alpaca, down from a high of 18, and two wallabies and four kangaroos, including little Scooby Roo.
Kangaroos, when they are babies, are very time consuming.
They start out as jelly bean-sized babies in their mother's pouches, and when the infants are old enough to separate from their mothers, they come into the house for round-the-clock care. Every four hours, they require feeding, and they get carried everywhere, including to church and to the store.
At night, a baby kangaroo hangs from the headboard in a pouch, eventually graduating to a larger bag that hangs from a doorknob, then finally to a bed on the floor.
It's a lot of work, but there's nothing Wilmot enjoys more.
And she loves to spread that enjoyment around, especially to senior citizens.
"I know what great therapy they can be," she said. "The elderly are my passion, and I knew the baby would make them happy. I've dealt with depression myself, and it helped me. And to hold that baby is so amazing; and they adore it and don't want it to leave."
The visits from Scooby Roo may do more than lift the spirits of the seniors he visits.
Studies have shown that the elderly can derive physical benefits from getting regular visits with pets, including lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and lower stress. And pet therapy has also been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, perhaps due to elevated dopamine and seratonin levels in the brain, chemicals that create a feeling of calm and well-being in the body.
And pets can help reduce agitation in people with Alzheimer's dementia.
Wilmot also volunteers to bring animals to visit children in the hospital.
And her kangaroos are available for parties and events for a fee of $200 for an hour-long visit.
If kangaroos bring others half the joy they bring Wilmot, the visits will be a treasured treat.
Soon, Scooby Roo will outgrow his pouch and join Romeo, Juliet and Bella in the enclosure just across the back yard from Wilmot's house, where she can watch them hop and amble from her kitchen window.
But her nest won't be empty long.
She is awaiting a new baby kangaroo, which could arrive around Christmas.
For Wilmot, there could be no better gift.
To learn more, visit http://www.monroefunnyfarm.com, call (360) 863-0280 or email kangaroocrazy@gmail.com.


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